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President Traian Basescu yesterday invited Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean and Interior Minister Radu Stroe for Schengen talks at Cotroceni. The Presidential Administration notes in a press release that the officials discussed foreign policy issues as well as Romania’s mandates for the COREPER meeting on March 6 and JHA Council on March 7-8. Premier Victor Ponta said on B1TV yesterday that Romania would not ask for a vote on its Schengen application at the JHA Council this week and would not set a term for the finalisation of the process either. At the same time, he insisted the only official position in Romania’s Schengen dossier so far was Germany’s, but admitted that, should it come to the vote, other member states might align to that position. ‘The Netherlands would probably vote with Germany. We are not going to ask for a vote. I am convinced that Germany is not usually alone when it comes to the vote, because it is, nonetheless, one of the lead-countries in the European Union. Nothing changes for Romania if one, three or five member states vote against,’ Mediafax quotes Ponta as having said. He also said he had asked all his ministers to adopt ‘a lower tone’ in the matter, while stressing that, at the same time, Romania also needed to uphold its dignity. Monday night, PM Ponta was rejecting an idea suggested by the president, according to whom a total of at least seven member states would have opposed should a vote have been taken on Romania’s accession to Schengen this time. ‘There is no such thing. There can’t be even two. When you speak of an EU member state’s position, you cannot base your assertions on street corner gossip,’ Ponta said on Antena 3 TV. On the other hand, on Monday, Foreign Ministry Secretary of State George Ciamba said, referring to Schengen, that ‘Romania wants a normal and fair process’, adding that ‘the Schengen acquis was fulfilled’. Liberal Minister of Interior Radu Stroe said after the meeting at Cotroceni that his dismissal following his tough statements on Germany in the Schengen scandal had not been discussed. ‘I left there (Cotroceni talks – a/n) sooner. We only talked about Schengen! All I can say is we came to terms and that things will settle in,’ pesurse.ro quotes Stroe as having said.
German Embassy gives ‘rule of law’ argument for decision on Schengen
The Embassy of Germany in Bucharest yesterday said the complete integration of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area was still a main objective for the Federal Government, but it ‘will require all technical, administrative and rule of law conditions being in place’. The Embassy also reminds that ‘it is not about the freedom of movement of Romanian citizens, but whether or not Romania is able to provide the required protection for the EU external border, for example prevent the fraudulent entry of non-EU nationals’. ‘The latest CVM report of January highlighted progress in the rule of law and anti-corruption fields, but also shortcomings’, the German Embassy stresses, according to Mediafax. Berlin’s diplomatic mission here further says ‘the doubts’ are shared by ‘other EU/Schengen partners,’ Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu responds by saying that there is rule of aw in Romania and no ambassador of an EU member state can deny that. In his opinion, the position taken yesterday by the German Embassy in the Schengen matter was issued so that the statement of Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, was not perceived as ‘hostile’ in Romania. The German minister had made it very clear that Romania would not join Schengen now because of the fear of an inflow of immigrants that may come via Romania after accession, fears shared by some other European countries, but also on account of the election campaign in Germany. On the other hand, German MEP Markus Ferber said in an interview for RFI yesterday that ‘what the German interior minister had said was absolutely justified, as we see no progress whatsoever (in Romania and Bulgaria’s case- a/n)’. ‘Actually, the situation is deteriorating in both countries. (…) Neither Romania nor Bulgaria have improved their anti-corruption fight and, under such circumstances, it makes sense not to open our borders,’ realitatea.net quotes Ferber as having said. Furthermore, the German official noted that Schengen was more than a technical process.
Human corruption has no place in the granting of visas by the Romanian consular staff, Corlatean says
Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean on Monday evening described as wrong the information received by the German interior minister on corruption in Romania on the granting of visas, saying the informatized strict rule proceeding leaves no place for “ human interference”. “It’s access to data bases we are talking here, many of which are connected, though not fully, with the Schengen ones. The procedures are quite clear leaving no room for corruption. We don’t talk about the ‘90s, we don’t know what the situation was back then, we are talking about today’s Romania having the highest technology at the eastern border, the highest in the EU. There is no place for human interference in such proceedings,” said Corlatean, who found it “surprising” for German authorities to have such information which lead to wrong interpretations and decisions. Corlatean outlined that a European debate should begin on the access to Schengen of Romania and Bulgaria to better explain to the “European public opinion” why the two countries are measured with a different yardstick.
Also referring Monday evening to the deferral of Romania’s accession to Schengen, former foreign minister Mircea Geoana pointed out that there is a genuine risk for a “political alibi” being created for the non-compliance with the labour market liberalization as of 2014 to Romanians. “I’m afraid that, amid the precarious reputation we have in Europe, additional mechanisms may be created to prevent the right of each Romanian to work in each EU state. Even if treaties are again infringed upon, what happens with Schengen could get repeated with respect to Romanians’ free access to the labor market, which could be a real disaster,” Geoana.In his turn, National Liberal Party (PNL) first-vice-president Klaus Johannis on Monday described “as wise” Premier Victor Ponta’s decision not to compel a vote on Romania’s accession to Schengen at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council meeting, and added he would lobby Germania to change its officials’ view on Romania.